Federal Election Campaign Diary
The second Leader’s debate
of the election campaign was held on Sunday, marking the beginning of a week dominated by discussion about tax and superannuation
. The debate was widely described as lacklustre and without a clear winner, with issues such as economic management, border protection and environmental policy front and centre.
With tax back on the agenda this week, Labor confirmed it will keep the temporary budget repair levy in place for those earning over $180,000 if elected on July 2. Prime Minister Turnbull
labelled the Opposition’s move as unfair, arguing that retaining the levy would stifle growth and result in less revenue for health and education measures. Labor returned fire on the Government, saying it is not the right time to reduce company tax.
While the Government
spent much of week four of the election campaign continuing to spruik its jobs and growth agenda
, reports of a possible electoral backlash against the Coalition’s superannuation reforms
emerged, with West Australian Liberal MP Ian Goodenough
conceding he had received feedback from many voters opposed to the measures. Further reports suggested Liberal Party members
are particularly concerned about the changes, with some refusing to donate to the Coalition’s election campaign as a result. Treasurer Scott Morrison
and Cabinet Secretary Arthur Sinodinos
backed the Prime Minister's commitment to keep the reforms as announced in the Budget.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics
released the National Accounts mid-week, which were better than expected; 1.1 per cent growth in the first quarter of 2016 and 3.1 per cent growth over the past year. In responding to the figures, the Prime Minister
said growth in exports was a result of the Government’s focus on trade agreements, while also pointing out that continued growth requires strong economic leadership and warned against complacency in the face of significant challenges.
Following the emotional resignation of Nova Peris
from the Senate last week, Labor announced that former Member of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly Malarndirri McCarthy
will replace her at the top of Labor’s NT Senate ticket. In her first media appearance since the announcement, Ms McCarthy confirmed she is not currently a member of the ALP nor is she enrolled to vote in the Northern Territory – changes to electoral enrolments closed last week.
Meanwhile, discontent within the Coalition camp over the order of candidates on the NSW Senate ticket
was resolved this week when Liberal Minister Concetta Fierravanti-Wells
was bumped up to the number four position on the ticket. Still in NSW, former Australian Idol host and television personality James Mathison
announced he will run as an independent against former Prime Minister Tony Abbott
in the safe Sydney seat of Warringah
, focusing his campaign on environmental and social justice issues.
Senator Nick Xenophon
and his party continue to receive strong support, with new analysis of recent Newspoll figures showing more than 1 in 5 South Australians plan to vote for the Nick Xenophon Team (NXT). The traditionally safe Liberal seat of Mayo
in South Australia is shaping up as a potential battleground, with recent polling showing NXT candidate Rebekha Sharkie
is likely to pose a challenge for incumbent MP Jamie Briggs
. Prime Minister Turnbull
is in the Adelaide Hills area of Mayo today and joined Mr Briggs to announce $3.75 million for a new sporting complex in the electorate. Meanwhile, Senator Xenophon
has conceded he failed to declare his directorship of Adelaide Tower Pty Ltd – a company run by his father which once had $2.5 million in unpaid company taxes – on his parliamentary register of interests. Senator Xenophon
has promised to correct the omission immediately, calling it an “embarrassing oversight”.
In a break from recent tradition, Labor’s official election campaign launch
will be held in Western Sydney
on June 19, in the marginal Liberal-held seat of Lindsay. Media reports indicate the Coalition may also decide to launch in Sydney instead of Brisbane, which has been the chosen location for both major parties’ campaign launch events since 2004. Prime Minister Turnbull
continues to prioritise campaigning in marginal Liberal-held electorates, having visited twice as many marginal government seats as Bill Shorten
in the first three weeks of the campaign.
With now fewer than 30 days to go, the punters are still favouring the Coalition, with CrownBet
offering $1.30 for a Coalition win and $3.45 if Labor prevail.
Highlights of the Week
Policy in Focus – Tax
- Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull joined Liberal MP Fiona Scott in her marginal electorate of Lindsay to announce $4.6 million for 12 new pilot sites in the Pathways in Technology Early College High School program.
- Labor pledged $21 million for the ABC to broadcast more women's sports, which it says will increase coverage by around 500 hours over four years.
- The Coalition committed $20 million to establish a research collaboration for high risk childhood cancers under the Zero Childhood Cancer Initiative.
- Labor announced its renewable energy and Great Barrier Reef policies.
- Mr Shorten confirmed that Labor will honour the Commonwealth's funding commitment to the WestConnex project, if elected.
- The Coalition released its policy to establish a $40 million Safer Communities Fund for crime prevention initiatives, such as CCTV and lighting.
- The Coalition announced $3.75 million funding for the Mount Barker Regional Sports Hub in the electorate of Mayo.
- Opposition Leader Bill Shorten refused to respond to questions about Labor’s position on possible changes to penalty rates this week by claiming the Fair Work Commission would not recommend cutting penalty rates because “the evidence doesn’t support it”.
- The Greens announced a $1 billion plan to build 1000 kilometres of bike and walking tracks in Australian cities.
- The Fair Work Commission has increased the minimum wage by 2.4 per cent to around $672.70 per week.
Malcolm Turnbull came to the prime ministership in September 2015 promising economic leadership and proper debate on the complex issues facing Australia. Continuing a “national conversation” on tax reform initiated by his predecessor, Mr Turnbull wasted no time in bringing it to the forefront of the public debate, emphasising that all options for tax reform were on the table. An increase to the GST was floated – and later ruled out by the Government because it did not pass the “first test” of delivering economic growth. A bold proposal to allow states to levy income tax followed but was rejected by state and territory leaders.
Tax reform featured prominently in the lead in to the election campaign. The Coalition has put its Tax White Paper process on hold and, through the May Budget, shifted its focus toward addressing corporate tax avoidance, a staged reduction in company tax and delivering modest income tax benefits. Meanwhile, Labor has committed to tightening negative gearing and the capital gains tax discount, and labelled the Government’s proposed company tax cuts as a “giveaway to the big end of town” at the expense of average Australians.
In the Budget, the Coalition announced the Ten Year Enterprise Tax Plan
to reduce the company tax rate to 25 per cent over 10 years. From 2016-17, the tax rate for businesses with $10 million or less in annual turnover will be 27.5 per cent. The annual turnover threshold will be increased over 10 years to ultimately have all companies at 27.5 per cent by 2023-24. Labor argues that now is not the time for such significant tax breaks and confirmed this week that businesses with turnover of between $2 million and $10 million will not receive a tax cut or the $20,000 instant asset write-off
under a Shorten Labor Government. In response, the Government accused the Opposition of waging a war on business and “using tax as their bullets”.
This week, Mr Shorten also announced that the 2 per cent deficit levy on those earning more than $180,000 will continue for a decade under a Labor Government; the temporary deficit levy – with bipartisan support – was originally legislated to end on 1 July 2017. The Coalition has previously pledged not to renew the deficit levy beyond its expiration, saying it would act as a handbrake on growth and deliver less revenue for health and education measures.
Following passage of the Tax Laws Amendment (Combating Multinational Tax Avoidance) Bill 2015
in December 2015, the Coalition introduced a 40 per cent diverted profits tax to address multinational tax avoidance. The measures were passed with the support of the Greens in the Senate after Labor refused to back the legislation because it did not go far enough in combating multinational tax avoidance. In response, Labor has since released Their Fair Share,
a seven-part policy to address multinational tax avoidance, which includes plans to standardise Australia’s tax law with other countries to prevent “double-dipping”, and improved resources for the Australian Tax Office to boost compliance.